Disney Mad Tea Party

Release: 10/10/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 38 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Welcome to the Mad Hatter’s tea party! It’s always six o clock and that means it’s always tea time. Here’s another plate of biscuits. Take two. There’s no time to wash, so the cups and saucers pile higher and higher. Just make sure you’re not the one to crash the party, smashing stacks of cups, making them tumble and topple from the table. That would be ever so rude.

Disney Mad Tea Party is a nerve wracking cup stacking game atop a very precarious table. Be the first to play all your cards or stack every last cup to win. Tension tuned by skill, strategy and a touch of luck drives each decision you make.

Listen in to explore the game and discover why we think it’s Major Fun.

Disney Mad Tea Party

Designer: Funko Games

Publisher:  Funko Games

2-10 players  15 minutes  ages 5+   MSRP $20

Time to teach/learn:  2 minutes

Music credits include:

A Very Merry Unbirthday  |  by Ed Wynn & Jerry Colonna  |  the song

Mad Hatter  |  by Melanie Martinez the song

Picture Perfect

Release: 8/29/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 38 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

This party is in full swing. The food is a sumptuous feast for the senses. The music is lively and many are dancing. The conversations are a buzzing mixture of laughter and wit on subjects mundane and profound. There’s just one last detail to capture the moment… a picture!

You have been hired to commemorate the event with a group photo, showcasing the guests. It seemed like a simple job until each guest pulls you aside with a list of requests: I cannot stand next to him. I need to be on the left but make sure I am in front of her. I’m allergic to dogs, make sure that mutt is as far away from me as possible. It will take your expert skills to accommodate all their special needs, arranging and rearranging the guests and get everyone lined up just right.  

Picture Perfect is a game of logic and space with a technological twist. Over six rounds, can you puzzle out how to arrange all the party guests in a cardboard diorama? When you’re ready, snap a a photo with your phone and compare to see whose picture is closest to perfect.

Listen in to explore the game and discover why we think it is Major Fun!

Picture Perfect

Designer: Anthony Nouveau

Artist: Ronny Libor, Soren, Meding, Gyula Pozgay, Maja Wrzoek

Publishers: Arcane Wonders, Corax, Don’t Panic, Mebo, Broadway | BGG

2-4 players  1 hour  ages 10+   MSRP $45

Time to teach/learn:  5-6 minutes

Music credits include:

One Small Photograph  |  Kevin Shegog & The Gold Toppers  |  the song

Fotograf  |  Cool Candys  |  the song

Picture Book  |  The Kinks  |  the song

Kabuto Sumo

Kabuto Sumo

Boardgametables |  BGG

Designers: Tony Miller
Artist: Kwanchai Moriya
Publisher: Boardgametables
2-4 players 15 min ages 6+ MSRP $44
Time to Teach/Learn: 3 minutes

Written by: Stephen Conway

If you listen closely you can hear it… KLONK! The mighty Kabutomushi, the magnificent Rhinoceros beetles are knocking heads, sumo wrestling. Their epic duels in the World Insect Wrestling Championship are the stuff of legend! Now, you and a swarm of challengers are here to contend for titles and your place in history. Position is everything. It will take balance, steady hands (and maybe a little luck) to push and pivot your opponents from the ring!

Kabuto Sumo is a beautiful game. First, artist Kwanchai Moriya creates an enticing colorful world full of flamboyant insect heroes worthy of any professional wrestling circuit.

The play surface, the wrestling ring, is a raised cardboard platform in the shape of a tree stump. A separate cardboard pushing platform butts up against the stump, allowing each player to introduce new pieces to the ring.

Chunky smooth wooden discs in three sizes and three colors will populate the board. Each player will begin with a few discs in their personal supply.

Each player has a wooden insect wrestler token and a special move token in a shape that reflects the insect’s species. Each wrestler also comes with a reference card outlining their abilities. For younger or new players, Junior league cards outline rules for a simpler and slightly faster game.

To play, discs and wrestlers will be arranged in a pattern on the stump according to the number of players. Choose your wrestler, gather your discs, and get ready to rumble!

The goal is simple: push your opponent’s wrestlers from the ring OR run your opponents out of pieces to play.

Kabuto Sumo draws great inspiration from old school coin push arcade games.

On your turn, you will select one of the discs in your personal supply and place it on the pushing platform. You may place the platform anywhere around the wrestling ring. Then, using one hand, push the disc from the back of the piece until it is completely in the ring. You can push your disc at any angle as long as you push in a straight line. If discs fall out of the ring as you push, you collect them into your personal supply. Then your opponents take their turns, selecting and pushing discs until someone’s wrestler falls or runs out of pieces to play.

NOTE: While your goal is to push the opponent from the ring, you constantly need to replenish your supply of discs by knocking some from the ring. Lose sight of this and you could find yourself scrambling just to stay in the game!

Kabuto Sumo is a great example of inclusion in game design. Signature moves add depth and strategy. The Junior League makes the game approachable to anyone.

Each wrestler has a set of superpowers. Some are triggered when their signature piece is pushed. The Stag Beetle’s mandibles can capture opponent’s discs. Others are triggered when certain conditions are met. If the Blister Beetle’s wrestler is touching another wrestler at the end of your turn, that opponent must give you a piece. Ouch!

But these powers come with a catch. They must be earned during the game! You’ll be forced to discard discs, stack some on the board, or even give discs to your opponents in order to use your powers. Suddenly the game operates on an entirely different level. Planning how and when to trigger your powers will likely be the key to victory!

At the other end of the spectrum, the Junior League option provides a quick and easy way for anyone to join the fun. Each wrestler starts with their signature piece and other discs. No special powers, just push and push and let the wrestlers fall where they may. The concept is so simple. There should be no barriers to entry in a game like this. No matter your interest or experience level, there’s a version of Kabuto Sumo to fit the way you want to play.

Kabuto Sumo teaches its players to savor and play with balance. Mind and body are all called to action. Planning and pushing pieces to making them fall is a primal kind of Major Fun, even when your plan goes sideways.

August 2022

Written by: Stephen Conway

Ouch!

Ouch!

Devir |  BGG

Designers: Romain Caterdjian and Théo Rivière
Artist: Fran Collado
Publisher: Devir
2-5 players 10 min ages 5+ MSRP $10
Time to Teach/Learn: 3 minutes

Written by: Doug Richardson

You and your friends are out in the desert and everything is blooming, especially the cactus. You shouldn’t touch… but they have so many pretty flowers! Risking a little prick, you can’t help but pick a few.

Ouch! is played with a deck of 44 cactus cards. 36 of these cards have only cactus flowers. Eight cards also feature an animal: either a helpful snake or a cute fennec fox.

The back of each card will show the whole cactus plant, as well as a number of flowers, ranging from one to three. The more flowers, the better. But be careful! The more flowers a card has, the more dangerous it is. The back of each cactus card has thorns covering one to three sides.

To set up a game of Ouch!, simply shuffle the cards and deal out six of them to the table, back side facing up. Players will now take turns going clockwise, starting with the youngest player.

The goal in Ouch! is to pick the most flowers. Extra points will be added for having sets of flowers of the four different colors as well as having the most red flowers.

What you are trying to NOT do is to get pricked. Remember, cactus plants have sharp thorns! 

On your turn, you will choose one of the six cards on the table. Then pick it up by one side of the card: top, bottom, left, or right. Now turn it over quickly and see what you got.

If the side you chose shows no cactus spines, congratulations! You have picked flowers successfully. Put the card in front of you in your collection.

If you picked up the card by an edge showing the cactus, then shout “Ouch!” and drop it quickly. Discard this card. It is out of the game.

Red cactus cards carry extra risk and extra reward. If you pick a red cactus and it stings you, you must discard a card from your collection. That’s the risk. The reward is, at the end of the game, the player with the most red flowers will score five extra points

You may also encounter some helpful animals in the desert. If you collect a card with a snake, watch the next player’s turn. If they are pricked by the card they choose, you get to add that card to your collection.

If a card you collect shows a fennec fox, you may choose to take another turn picking flowers. But be very careful! If you’re stuck by this card, you lose it, and the card with the fennec.

Whether you picked flowers, or got stuck by thorns, after your turn, draw another cactus card so that there are always six cards for the next player to choose from.

The game ends once someone has collected eight cards, or when there are no more cards in the draw pile. Then everyone adds up their scores.

  • You get one point for each flower on your cards.
  • You get 4 additional points for each bouquet of four different colored flowers you can make.
  • The player with the most red flowers gets 5 points. If tied, each player gets this bonus.

The player with the most points is the winner!

People play games for so many reasons. Some of us enjoy the thrill of competition. We get a charge out of besting our fellow players. 

Or maybe it’s the challenge of building up a tabletop empire – a kingdom, or business, or farm. We revel in creating a beautiful, efficient, or productive machine. 

Others love the challenge of playing cooperatively to solve a mystery, or beat back a pandemic. It’s us-against-the- game. Surviving or solving as a team is the reward.

Whatever the game, fun should be the ultimate prize. 

Ouch! delivers fun at its most basic level. This is fun we know deep in our bones – fun we can see and hear and touch.

The fun is in the look of relief on someone’s face when they pick a card and don’t get pricked. It’s in hearing a loud “Ouch!” from a smug opponent. You see this fun in the look of real apprehension as someone fearfully flips their card.

Which is silly, really. After all, those aren’t real thorns on the cactus plants. They’re just playing cards. And yet, you will find yourself smiling, and cringing, and shouting “OUCH!” as you play! 

Here’s why.

The game is just an object. But when it becomes an object of play, it becomes something more – an invitation to a world of imagination. We invest the cards in Ouch! with a power beyond mere cardboard. The game invites us to make believe, and the more you buy into that small illusion, the more fun we make the game.

A game can invite its audience to stop the “real” world. Come play and let’s find the fun. 

Most of the time, fun is hard to describe or know. The simple genius of Ouch! is that it helps us create fun we can recognize and surrender to in the blink of an eye… or the turn of a card. 

Ouch! allows us to lose ourselves in a simple lie and be silly for a few moments. The fun it gives us permission to find is evergreen – anyone of any age or background can find it. Ouch! delivers an experience far beyond a deck of cards. If you let it, the game will drop you off in a land we call Major Fun.

June 2022

Written by: Doug Richardson

Aves

Release: 6/15/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 180 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Seven fruits, seven feathers. The birds are playing a colorful game. When a red apple is eaten, a feather turns red. Eat a lime, a feather turns green. Can you be the first bird to collect all the colors and display them in your pretty plumage?

Aves is a card capturing / set collecting game with roots in the classics. It shares common ancestry with games like Gin Rummy and Scopa. It is also a game of simple, subtle, and sneaky strategies . Tune in to learn why we think Aves is a wonderfully accessible invitation to a lighter and brighter kind of fun.

This show also marks the 400th review episode of The Spiel!!

To celebrate, we invited Spielers from around the world to host seven different segments that have been part of the program over the past 16 years. This super sized show is filled with fan favorites, lots of laughs, and a ridiculous amount of board game hijinx. We hope you have as much fun listening as we did putting it together.

Full show notes on all the segments are available at The Spiel.

Aves  Play With Us Design  |  BGG

Designer: Shi Chen   Artist: Yawen Jheng

Publisher: Play With Us Design

2-5 players  10-15 min.  ages 16+   MSRP $20

Time to teach/learn:  3-4 minutes

Music credits include:

And Your Bird Can Sing  by  Neymar Dias & Igor Pimenta  |  the song

Little Birds  by Carthy, Hardy, Farrel & Youngthe song

Leather Wing Bat  by String Loaded  |  the song

Long Shot: The Dice Game

Long Shot: The Dice Game

Perplext  |  BGG 

D: Chris Handy
A: Clau Souza
P: Perplext
1-8 players 20-30 min ages 10+ MSRP $30
Time to Teach/Learn: 4-5 minutes

It’s going to be a great day at the track. Whether you’re here to bet on your favorite, cheer on the horse you own, or enjoy a mint julep in the stands, the excitement and anticipation builds as the field thunders around the last turn, headed for the home stretch!

Long Shot: The Dice Game is a roll-and-move-and-write game.

Each roll, a horse will gallop toward the finish line, dragging others along for the ride.

Each roll, you will have a chance to shape the outcome of the race and your fortunes with a variety of special actions: betting or buying horses, concessions, or equipment.

Will you play it safe to insure a solid payout or press your luck to cash in? Collect the most money to walk away the talk of the track.

The focal point of the game are the eight chunky wooden horses moving around the race track board. The horses are brightly colored and numbered and feature charming illustrations giving each horse character.

The race track board is an oval with 15 spaces. The last four spaces are a lighter shade indicating the No Bet Zone.

There are 24 horse cards, 3 sets of 8 different horses. Each horse in a set is color coded and numbered to match the wooden tokens. The horse cards have very clever names, a special ability, a purchase cost, a listing for the odds on the horse, and a row along the bottom edge of the card with a numbered space for each horse in the race. Some spaces will be blank and some will already have an X.

It wouldn’t be a dice game without dice, right? There are two dice in the game: a movement die and a horse die The green movement die is six sided and is numbered 1-3 (1-2-2-2-3-3). The horse die is eight sided. Each die face represents one of the horses in the race and is numbered 1-8. The die face is also color coded to match the horse cards and tokens.

Everything in the game synchs up visually. So, for instance, the #4 horse is pink. Its wooden token and horse card are pink and the #4 side of the horse die is also pink.

This extends to the individual player boards as well. This is where you will keep track of your bets and purchases and also tally your bonuses and money. Again, you will see the eight horses, in matching number and colors. There are spaces to track your bets, helmets, and jerseys for each horse. There’s also a concession stand grid. It is a 4×4 grid with two colored dots for each horse in the race. There are also 3 horseshoes you can use if the dice don’t cooperate as much as you’d like.

The player boards and horse cards are all coated so they can be written on with dry erase markers. As the game unfolds, you will be marking off spaces, and keeping track of your investments. There are 8 nice markers included as well as a nifty eraser shaped like a jockey’s helmet.

Last but not least is a separate board for the solitaire edition, and a deck of 8 starting cards.

To play, select a set of 8 horses (numbered 1-8) and arrange them near the race track. Place the 8 horse tokens on the start line on the board. Each player takes a personal board, and starts with 12 dollars (recorded on the board).

Each player then draws a card from the start deck. This start card gives each player a free bet on two horses and shows a few spaces to mark off on the concession grid. This way each player begins with different interests and some skin in the game.

The youngest player rolls the dice on the first turn… and we’re off!

Long Shot is a roll-and-move-and-write game. There are three parts to a turn. Roll dice. Move horses. Then players get one action based on the dice rolled, writing the result of this action on their boards. The game continues in this pattern until three horses finish the race. When the race is done, tally your money from all sources and the player who earned the most wins the game.

Let’s look at each part of the turn at little closer.

Every turn begins with the active player rolling the movement and horse dice. The horse rolled will move 1-3 spaces based on the result on the movement die. But we’re not done moving horses yet! Consult the horse card for the horse that just moved. Remember at the bottom of each horse card is a row showing a space for each horse in the race. If that horse’s space is marked with an X, that horse gets a bonus move, galloping forward one space. So each and every turn the main horse will move and one or more horses may get a bonus move based on which horses are marked off on the bottom of the card.

That’s 2/3rds of the turn right there. Roll dice. Move horses.

The turn ends with a fun choice for each player. Based on the horse rolled, each player in turn order will get to perform an action. The actions are listed on the player boards: Bet, Helmet, Jersey, Concession, or Buy a Horse.

If you choose Bet, you write down a $1-3 bet on the horse that was rolled. Erase the money from your bank total and add it to any existing bet. The odds for each horse are listed on the board and will multiply your bet based on whether the horse finishes first, second, or third. If your horse makes it to the No Bet Zone, you get your money back.

If you choose the helmet action, you mark off the helmet space on your board for the horse that was rolled. Once you have a helmet for a horse, you may place future bets on that horse even if it is in the No Bet Zone. This means as the horse is getting ever closer to winning, you might be able to sneak in a big bet at the end.

If you choose the Jersey action, you mark off the jersey space on your board for the horse that was rolled. Then, you immediately select one of the horse cards and mark off a space at the bottom of the card corresponding to the horse that was rolled. In addition, you get to mark off ANY space on the horse card that was rolled. This means you are increasing the chances of several horses getting a bonus move.

For example, let’s say I have a big bet on horse 6. I might choose the jersey action when someone rolls horse 6 during the game so I can mark off the 6 space on horse number 8. Now every time horse 8 moves, horse 6 will get a bonus move thanks to my jersey.

If I choose to Buy a horse, I can buy the horse that was rolled. Each horse has a price listed. Deduct that price from your bank on your board and take the horse card and place it in front of you. Why buy? Two reasons. First, you get prize money if your horse finishes first, second, or third ($35 win, $25 place, or $15 show).

Second, each horse has a special ability you can now use. The abilities are usually keyed to a specific action and vary widely.

For instance, if you buy Cook the Books, it will cost you $8. Pricey! BUT, when you take the bet action, you can place a FREE $1 bet on ANY horse instead of placing a regular bet on the horse that was rolled. If you buy Nitro Nellie, when you take the jersey action, that horse immediately gets a bonus move.

Even if your horse doesn’t finish the race, its ability may make it worth the investment!

The last action is the concession stand. This is the grid of colored number dots corresponding to the horses in the race. If you choose the concession action, mark off a colored dot on the grid corresponding to the horse rolled. If you complete a row or a column in the grid, you immediately get a bonus. The bonuses are listed in a grid below the concessions area on the player board. You could get $7, you could move horses forward or backward on the track, you can put in a free bet, or a free helmet, or jersey action. You can even buy a horse for free! Every time you complete a row or column, you get a new bonus. So, with some simple strategerie in selecting which dots to mark off, you can set yourself up to cash in several times.

Last but not least are the horseshoes. Each player has three and they are wild. Normally, during the action part of the turn, everyone must use the horse number that was rolled UNLESS you decide to mark off a horseshoe on your board. Then, you can take an action based on a horse of your choice. If the #7 horse was rolled and you really really needed horse #3 to complete a row on the concession grid, you could spend a wild and make the #7 into a #3 this turn.

Let’s recap. Roll dice. The horse rolled moves based on the movement die and any horse listed on the bottom of its card with a mark gets a bonus move. Then each player gets to do an action based on the horse that was rolled. You can bet on the horse, give its jockey a helmet allowing you to bet on it in the No Bet Zone. Give the jockey a jersey allowing you to increase the chance of that horse getting a bonus move. You can buy the horse, allowing you to cash in if it finishes well AND you get a special ability. And last but not least you can cross off that horse’s number in the concession stand, trying to complete rows or columns for big bonuses.

When three horses finish, the race is done. Tally your money from prize winnings and bets. There’s a $5 bonus for each horse with a jersey and helmet marked off on your board. Add in any remaining cash in your bank and the player with the most money wins the game.

Long Shot is incredibly flexible. It can accommodate big groups or small without the game bogging down. Switch out different sets of horses (or mix and match) and the game feels fresh and different each time. And for a dice game, there are so many ways to mitigate your luck and change the outcome of the race.

The bonus move mechanism is a lovely stroke of genius in this regard. Even when one horse goes on a long streak of rolls, it will pull along several other horses in its wake.

Long Shot feels like a series of mini-games when you’re in the thick of it. Do I want to focus on buying horses and cashing in on their abilities? Do I want to focus on concessions and grab bonuses? Do I want to bet high and try to use the jerseys and helmets to move my favorite horses ahead?

In any given race you may not be able to focus on every one of these mini-games, but that’s ok. The game goes so quickly, there’s plenty of incentive to set up another race and try something different next time.

Speaking of pacing, every race seems to build to an exciting crescendo not just based on which horse will win or lose, but who will swoop in with a brilliant (or lucky!) roll allowing them to buy or bet or gain a bonus to collect a princely sum. Even when the odds are long, no one is ever truly out of contention until the third horse crosses the finish line.

There’s also a solitaire version allowing players to pit their talents against the infamous Roland Wright.

And if this wasn’t enough, there’s a deck of track events that add yet another layer of opportunities or obstacles to every decision and every race.

Long Shot gives players a snap shot experience of a day at the races. It isn’t trying to be a simulation of realistic horse racing. The emphasis is on casual play and invites everyone to join the fun.*

It banks on some of the most basic elements all game players know. Roll and move. Then roll and write. The actions are not overwhelming to understand or use. They are presented buffet style; you can pick and choose which ones to pursue – and the next race, you can go back and fill your plate in an entirely different way.

The game has nuance without being overly thinky. And that is a great because it allows Long Shot to focus on a casual, exciting, and unpredictable gameplay.

This makes Long Shot itself a long shot – that rare find – a game that can point so many to Major Fun and in so many different ways.

May 2022

*Publisher and Designer Chris Handy has intuitive grasp of casual play. Just take gander at any of the titles in his gum-pack sized games and you’ll see how open and inviting the entire series is to players of all sorts. Major Fun is like a rainbow colored bit of silly string that unites them all.

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Boomerang

Release: 5/9/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 32 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

The best way to travel is boomerang style. Pick a place to start and go! The farther you wander, the better the trip. Grab a bus, or train, a plane, a bike, or a boat to see and do as much as you can before your vacation ends. Spot native animals, collect souvenirs, hike the great outdoors, and experience fine dining. And don’t forget to take some great pictures along the way!

Boomerang is a draft-and-write card game. Pick a location card, mark sites you visit on your map, and pass your hand to the next player. Try to build the best trip over a series of seven cards balancing multiple ways to score with each new destination

The Boomerang family of games covers Australia, Europe, and the United States.Each game provides a common core of rules with surprising and fun continental differences.

Tune in to explore the game and learn how the entire series earns BOTH awards!

Boomerang  Grail Games  |  BGG Play on Board Game Arena

Designer: Scott Almes   Artist: Kerri Aitken

Publisher: Grail Games, Matagot

2-4 players  15-30 min.  ages 10+   MSRP $20

Time to teach/learn:  3-4 minutes

Music credits include:

Boomerang    by Cowboy Copasthe song

Baby Boomerang  by T. Rex  |  the song

Block Ness

Block Ness

Blue Orange Games | BGG

D: Laurent Escoffier
A: Simon Douchy
P: Blue Orange
2-4 players 15 min ages 8+ MSRP $28
Time to Teach/Learn: 3 minutes

Once home to a single very shy sea monster, Block Ness is now teeming with long bodied serpents! Each one is looking to stretch out and claim as much of the lake as it can. By twisting your monster’s undulating body over and around the others, can you create the longest serpent from head to tail?

Table presence is a relatively new term in the world of games. Think curb appeal when you hear realtors talk about houses and you get the idea. Block Ness has table presence. It will grab your eye from across the room!

The game is played in the box which represents the lake.The thick lake board has a grid pattern of holes punched into it and these holes will be filled by very large and colorful segments of sea monsters.

Each player has ten different arching segments with pegs that fit snugly into the holes in the board. Some segments arch high while others are low. Some are long and others are short. Each player also has a serpent head and tail piece which can be attached to the top of any body segment.

While playing, the game board will look like a tangled mess of serpent segments with monsters’ bodies intertwined.

To set up, each player snaps their starting serpent segment into the center of the lake board and places the head on one end and the tail on the other.

The goal in Block Ness is to create the longest serpent you can on the board before you run out of space in the lake. When playing with four players you use the entire lake board. When playing with two or three players, you use a smaller portion of the lake.

Each turn, in clockwise order, players will select and place a new serpent segment to extend either the head or the tail of their beast. The holes in the lake board are arrayed in such a way that there are six legal spaces where you can add a new piece. One directly in front or behind your serpent and two to each side at the front or back. Diagonal placement is not allowed. After the new segment has been added, you will move the tail to the new end of the creature or the head to the new beginning.

Play continues in this fashion with each serpent taking up more space. When no more pieces can be played, the game ends and the player who has placed the most serpent pieces on the board wins. In the case of a tie, the player whose serpent head is the tallest is the winner.

Block Ness asks its players to think in multiple directions at once because the lake is so small. Even after the first turn, it will be clear just how fast this lake is going to fill up.

You have to think about how to fold your serpent back against itself and how to extend each arching piece over yourself or others to find open water for your next move. You may never go under other pieces, even your own, and your piece may never pass over the head or tail of an opponent’s serpent.

As the game winds forward, you may only have a few starting spaces open because other serpents have slithered up next to you. And you have to keep a close eye on the length of each piece to insure each end of the segment you want to place has a open hole to land in.

Think sideways. Think up and down. Think head and tail. The challenge and fun in Block Ness comes from keeping your options open as long as you can in as many directions as possible.

Block Ness is fast and wonderfully tense. It might seem simple, but there is subtle depth in action. A good abstract strategy game presents each turn as mini-puzzle a player must unravel. Small victories linked together help you create a strategy and push your opponent to do the same. Each small puzzle you solve links to the next in a very visual way. Nessie herself remains a mystery, but in Block Ness, we can witness Major Fun made manifest, rising from the waves of its cardboard lake.

Hide N’ Cheek

Hide N’ Cheek

Big G Creative | BGG

D: uncredited
A: Kevin Hill, Ryan Noonan
P: Big G Creative
2-4 players ages 6+ MSRP $20

Time to Teach/Learn: 2 minutes

You are a chipmunk. And you are one crafty little bugger! In your spare time you play a bluffing game with your friends. Deep in the forest, you take turns hiding acorns under some logs, and, one by one, you and your pals get a chance to search. You might scare up a single nut or you could hit the motherlode. Any nuts you find get crammed into your chubby little cheeks! Do your best to avoid coming up empty or, even worse, finding a bad nut! With a little luck, your cheeks will be the chunkiest. You might look silly, but you won’t mind at all, because you’ll be crowned the Hide n’ Cheek Champion!

No matter how many games you may own, it is a safe bet you probably don’t have any games with four flexible smiling chipmunk masks. The masks are adjustable for heads and faces large and small. The cheeks on each mask have a stretchy fabric pouch.

There are 40 plastic acorns (36 good ones and 4 bad ones) and 4 hollow logs – small plastic cups with wood grain texture.

To play, each player will don a chipmunk mask, gather all the nuts into a pile and get ready to laugh.

Each round, one player will hide nuts and the others will try to find them. The Finders shut their eyes while the Hider selects three nuts from the pile and decides how to arrange them under the logs. Once the nuts are hidden, the Hider mixes up the logs and presents them to the group. Eyes open, the Finders now, one by one in clockwise order, get a chance to look under a log and see if they find a nut. If a nut is found… wahoo! They take the nut and cram it into one of their cheek pouches. If the log is empty, better luck next time. The next player in order becomes the new Hider and repeats the process, selecting three nuts, hiding them, and the others taking turns searching.

Once per game, instead of selecting three nuts, each Hider can declare a Bad Nut round. Instead of placing three regular nuts, the Hider places a single green Bad Nut under one of the logs. Bad luck for the player who selects the log with the bad nut! They must give the Hider three nuts from their cheek pouches.

When the pile of nuts is gone, the player whose cheeks are cram-packed with the most nuts wins the game.

Without the ridiculous masks, Hide ‘n Cheek would be an amusing diversion at best.

It is physically impossible not to laugh once you see someone wearing a mask. If you ever wondered what you would look like as a demented cartoon animal, this is your chance! The masks are equal parts hilarious and horrifying. It is very very likely once you see the masks, you may feel self conscious and silly about putting one on. And in the era of pandemics, it is worth emphasizing that each and every mask should be sanitized between uses. But here’s the thing…

EVERYONE playing will be wearing the masks. You ALL share the experience of looking and feeling and even sounding ridiculous as you play the game. Crazy chipmunk voices are not only allowed; I say they are encouraged!

The masks are a perfect reminder to not take yourself, or others, or even the game too seriously. Wearing the mask literally conceals your you-ness. But wearing the mask also sets you free. It unites you with the other players. You all look silly. You can’t point and laugh at others without them pointing and laughing at you as your cheeks fill up with acorns.

Any game may gather a group at a table to play, but few can create a truly shared experience that makes winning or losing an afterthought. Hide n’ Cheek celebrates the fun of playing by poking gentle fun at the people playing. “Relax,” it says. “Take a beat. Take a deep breath and laugh at yourself.” Hide n’ Cheek wrestles us to the ground and makes us come to terms with the fact that play is an essentially absurd activity. But not without meaning or value. It is joyful, silly, freeing, and oh so human. A game like Hide N’ Cheek is Major Fun because it reminds us of this simple, noble truth.

Pocket Paragons

Release: 3/7/2022    | Download:  Enhanced  | MP3

Run Time: 38 min   | Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

Pocket Paragons is a what-beats-what card dueling game. Select a card; play it’s ability and try to anticipate your opponent’s next move. Duel one on one or in teams of three characters.

From Mata the Paladin to Sadoh the Ocean Queen, this is a world of high fantasy and high stakes. Seven cards separate you from glory or defeat.

Pocket Paragons is a duel distilled down to its very essence. A long game might take ten minutes! But don’t be fooled into thinking speed means lack of strategy. There are fun and challenging decisions at the heart of every turn.

Listen in to explore the game and learn how the game earns BOTH our awards.

Pocket Paragons  Solis Game Studio  |  BGG  

Designer: Brian McKay   Artist: Megan Cheever

Publisher: Solis Game Studio

2 players  5-10 min.  ages 12+   MSRP $25

Time to teach/learn:  5 minutes

Time to teach and learn: 3-4 minutes

Music credits include:

Pocket Calculator  |  by Basscraft the song

Hand in My Pocket  |  by  Vitamin String Quartet the song

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